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A couple of late winter snow squalls moved through earlier this week dropping from just a few inches to up to 8 inches across most of the state. A number of trails were groomed and cross-country ski trail conditions ranged from good and excellent in the north to fair in central Wisconsin to poor in the south. Snowmobile trails remain open in about 20 mostly northern counties and range from excellent to poor on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR).
Northern lakes still have 18 inches to 2 feet of ice, but travel is difficult with over a foot of crusty snow and with the current warm-spell conditions may be slushy. Ice shanties must be removed from inland waters north of Highway 64 by March 18 this year, but with 10-day forecast showing temperatures above freezing, it might be a good idea to consider removing them. The ice on central and southern Wisconsin lakes has begun to deteriorate fairly quickly.
The view of Lake Michigan from Newport State Park in Door County.Photo credit: DNR
Game fishing is closed on most inland water, but anglers have still been getting out for late season panfishing. Anglers on the northern and central lakes report that panfish are coming out of the mid-winter lull and starting to bite.
On Green Bay, anglers along the west shore continue to report decent catches of whitefish along with a few northern and perch, while anglers along the east shore had little luck, only coming in with two to five whitefish and many were out over the weekend pulling their shacks off as the ice is beginning to thin and open water is visible.
The Fox River is mostly ice free allowing anglers to get their boats in the water and heavy boat traffic was the norm at Fox Point over the weekend. Anglers report catching good numbers of walleye along with the occasional northern and whitefish. Sunset anglers report catching good numbers of perch averaging around 8 inches.
The Lakeshore State Park lagoon in Milwaukee is about 75 percent ice-free and the first boat has come in for fishing.
Turkeys are still in winter flocks but are starting to move more. A few male wild turkeys have been seen strutting and displaying and heard gobbling. While these behaviors are signs of the impending breeding season, there is still a way to go before breeding actually begins.
The first signs are spring are starting to show as a small bear was identified outside of its den in central Iron County. Whether the bear left its den because of human disturbance or because melting snow created a puddle underneath it, will likely go back into hibernation until the days become longer and the temperatures warmer.
Fox and gray squirrels are taking advantage of warming weather and lengthening days by feeding furiously on nuts and seeds that have remained buried all winter under the snow. Raccoon, skunk, muskrat, mink, and opossum activity has increased as day and night temperatures have increased. River otter sign may be more evident along creeks and streams this time of year as males increase their movements during the March to April breeding season.
On March 1, the number of greater white-fronted geese in Dodge County was described as staggering and nearly equal that of Canada geese. However, this week's snowstorm triggered a reverse migration in with large numbers of geese seen flying south on March 7. Farther north, trumpeter swans have reached open water north to Lake Superior.
Before the snow storm maple sap had been flowing but the colder weather this week was halting flow. The flow may increase this weekend with the warmer weather again in the forecast.
Statewide Birding Report
Migration carries on, including more individuals of many of the species mentioned in last week's report, such as American robins, red-winged blackbirds, common grackles, eastern bluebirds, and various waterfowl. American woodcock have arrived in the south, where tundra swans have started to increase as well. The number of greater white-fronted geese in Dodge County was described as staggering and nearly equal that of Canada geese on March 1. However, an early-week snowstorm triggered reverse migration in some Canada geese as large numbers were seen flying south on March 7. Farther north, trumpeter swans have reached open water north to Lake Superior. The head-bobbing courtship displays of common goldeneyes are prevalent now at many water bodies statewide.
Although most common goldeneyes nest in the boreal forest north of Wisconsin, their head-bobbing courtship activities are commonly observed here in late winter and spring.Photo credit: Laurie Smaglick Johnson
Large numbers of dark-eyed juncos and American tree sparrows were found in the south this week. Many will be moving north with suitable weather in the 1-2 weeks ahead. The same can be said for bald eagles and common redpolls, the latter rushing to feeders in good numbers during the recent snowstorm. Those with bird feeders should beware of salmonella, a bacterial disease common among small finches at backyard feeders during the warmer and wet conditions of early spring. Know the signs and how to respond.
Some birds seen performing courtship or nesting activities this week include bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, barred owls, common ravens, pine siskins, red crossbills, and house finches. Rarities were few with a harlequin duck in Milwaukee probably being most notable. Expect a steady but slow-paced migration through most of the week ahead until winds turn favorably south toward St. Patrick's Day weekend. As always, track migration progress by species here http://bit.ly/2oznJKK and put your sightings on the map by submitting them to www.ebird.org/wi. Good birding! - Ryan Brady, conservation biologist, Ashland
Upcoming featured events at Wisconsin recreational properties
Saturday, March 10, 2018
Sunday, March 11
For all events search the DNR website for "Get Outdoors."
Find a park, forest trail or recreation property
Upcoming State Natural Area Workday
March 10, 9 a.m.-noon: Bluff Creek Springs
: Enjoy the weather and cut up buckthorn at the springs of Bluff Creek SNA. Keep the brush cutting magic going during our monthly Southern Kettle Moraine SNA workdays on the second Saturday and enjoy the beauty of this wetland and oak opening area in the process. Buckthorn can spread and shade out uncommon plants at this site. Bring a bag lunch to eat together afterwards. No skills needed you will be trained onsite. Check the State Natural Areas Volunteer Program
page of the DNR website for details. - Jared Urban, conservation biologist, Dane. - Jared Urban, conservation biologist, Dane
Ashland DNR Service Center area
Iron County - The first signs are spring are starting to show as a small bear was identified outside of its den in central Iron County. Whether the bear left its den because of human disturbance or because melting snow created a puddle underneath it, it is likely the bear will go back into hibernation until the days become longer and the temperatures warmer. Iron County has plenty of ice to continue ice fishing on and the fishing is good. However, with the warm-spell that is currently upon us, conditions may be slushy, wet and a bit icy as well--wear your ice cleats! Ski trail conditions are riding a roller coaster with the warm, sunny days and cool nights. MECCA was recently groomed and is currently in excellent condition. Uller and Montreal have faster than normal conditions but still offer a great opportunity to get outdoors. The Mercer Sno-goers believe that the snow pack may allow trail riding to extend to late March. Some highly-used areas near towns are deteriorating, but the woods seem to faring well. - Jenna Kosnicki, wildlife biologist, Mercer
Copper Falls State Park - Cross-country ski trails were groomed and tracked March 7 are in good condition. Maps are available at the office, which identify the different ski trails for skate and classic skiing. Expect varying trail conditions with the fluctuating temperatures. - Brent Couperus, ranger
Pattison State Park - Pattison received 4 inches of snow on March 5. There is about 9 inches of base on the ski trails and 18-20 inches of snow on the ground. The ski trails were groomed and tracked the morning of March 7. The past two weeks of temperatures climbing into the upper 30's and low 40's, the ski trail has become a little icy in the morning and soft by the afternoon. This new snow will be an excellent addition to the ski base and conditions should be very good to excellent. A trail pass is not required but a vehicle admission sticker is.- Gervase Thompson, ranger
Spooner DNR Service Center area
Crex Meadows State Wildlife - Birds are still scarce in the Grantsburg Area, but spring is just around the corner. There are reports of early migrants in southern Wisconsin, so we will start getting a greater variety of birds soon! The best way to bird watch right now is by the feeders at the Visitor Center and also the ones on Klarquist Road. At the feeders you can see many common redpolls, white-breasted nuthatches, red-breasted nuthatches, and black-capped chickadees. The highlights this week include the snowy owl spotted up north on crex meadows, a horned lark, a golden eagle spotted on west refuge road, and a flock of pine grosbeaks. - Lauren Finch, wildlife educator
Governor Knowles State Forest - The Grantsburg area received about 4-5 inches of snow March 5. The Ridge Line and Ravine cross-country ski trails were groomed Tuesday, March 6. The Oak Hills cross-country ski trail is expected to be groomed Thursday, March 8. Trails are in excellent condition. - Brandi Buchholz, ranger
Interstate Park - The cross-country ski trails took a big hit with the warm weather last week. There wasn't enough snow fall on Monday to attempt to groom. They are snow covered with ice underneath and in fair condition. - Thomas Faschingbauer, ranger
Park Falls DNR Service Center area
Flambeau River State Forest - The Flambeau Hills Cross Country Ski Trail is in good condition and was rolled March 7 and will be groomed Thursday or Friday. Snowmobile trails are in fair condition. Connors Lake ice depth is reported to be about 18 inches and fishermen are catching some perch. Fishing has been slow and folks have mentioned some slush under the new snow. The rumor is that road banns are going up next week. Sap had started to flow when temperatures were above 40 degrees but temps have dropped again. The forest received another 2.5 inches of snow on Monday night and Tuesday early morning and throughout the day with high winds and drifting snow giving some sports enthusiasts a bit longer on the trails. The weather continues to challenge the Flambeau River wildlife. We are watchful of all the usual March activities when temperatures rise, such as: the status of the bird migration, emerges of the hibernators, mating and breeding, gobbling and peeping. Keep vigilant watch over the daily phenological changes because they happen so fast. Sunday is Daylight Saving Time so clocks move forward. The weather forecast for the weekend, calls for Friday to be mostly sunny with a high of 33 and low of 9. Saturday, will be mostly cloudy then a slight chance of rain/snow, with a high of 38 and a low of 20. Sunday, has a chance of rain/snow with a high of 40 and a low of 19. - Diane Stowell, forestry technician advanced and visitor services associate
Woodruff DNR Service Center area
Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - With snow over knee deep in the woods yet, one needs snowshoes to get around in the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest. Lots of opportunities to get out for the silent sports enthusiasts. Redpolls, pine siskins and crossbills can still be found at area feeders and along roadsides along with the occasional pine grosbeak and northern shrike. Critters are out in the deep snow looking for mates, making tracking interesting this time of the year. - Rosalie Richter, visitor services associate
Cross-country ski trail conditions: Escanaba Trail is in good condition. Cold weather and low use will keep tracks in good shape. There was a measured 22 inches of snow on an undisturbed picnic table near the Research Station. Tracks may be touched up again on Friday. This time of year we may have to recondition and mix the snow before tracking which takes additional time. - Dan Jacoby, parks and recreation specialist; McNaughton trails were groomed March 6 - A little bit of fresh snow helped smooth out the trail. Classic loops were still very hard (iced up) from the warm temps. Some areas of tracks are a little shallow but overall they are in good condition. LOTS of debris was on the trail from the recent high winds. The skater's loop, overall, is in good condition. It just a little soft but smoothed out nicely after this snow. The only spot that has some humps is near the lake where the drifts always pile up. There is considerably less debris on the skaters loop vs the classic.- Joseph Kraetke, parks and recreation specialist; Madeline and Raven trails were groomed March 6 and are in generally good condition. All loops have been tracked. Some leafy debris on trail due to windy conditions. - Tony Martinez, parks and recreation specialist
Rhinelander DNR Service Center area
Oneida County - Anglers report that panfish are coming out of the mid-winter lull and starting to bite. Bluegill and Perch were biting on wax worms in about 10 feet of water last weekend. Crappie action on tip-downs was slow, but should pick up with increasing day length. Most lakes have about 2 feet of ice, but travel is difficult with over a foot of crusty snow and areas of slush. Quite a few vehicles have been stuck in drifts. - John Kubisiak, fisheries supervisor, Rhinelander
Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report
Oconto County - Geano Beach anglers were catching decent catches of whitefish off the reef using slider rigs and spoons tipped with waxies. A few northern and perch are also being caught closer to shore. Anglers off the Oconto Breakwater are still catching whitefish although it seems to be slowing down with a few limits of smaller fish still being reported. Anglers in the marina report catching a lot of 4-6 inch perch using jigs and waxies with a bonus sunfish thrown into the mix. Anglers riding out to Young's Reef report catching around 30 whitefish fishing all day and having to sort for larger keepers. Menominee River anglers fishing from the Hattie Street bridge and Michigan-side fishing pier report slow fishing for browns and rainbows with no fish caught in a few hours of fishing. A few ice anglers were fishing out of sixth street. - Ben Ewoldt, fisheries technician, Peshtigo
Brown County - The Fox River is mostly ice free allowing anglers to get their boats in the water. Heavy boat traffic was the norm at Fox Point boat landing over the weekend. Anglers report catching good numbers of walleye using jigs tipped with live bait or smaller plastics. A few musky have also been caught by walleye fisherman as well with a 55-inch and a 36-inch musky being reported caught on walleye jigs. The occasional northern and whitefish are also being caught as well. Longtail Area anglers report catching a few smaller perch and whitefish straight out from the Lineville landing. Anglers fishing close to shore in less than 5 feet of water are catching 3-6 northern in a few hours' time fishing tip-ups with shiners with no northern coming from deeper waters. Sunset anglers report catching good numbers of perch averaging around 8 inches. The key to finding larger fish is to get away from the crowds and head north out of the access point. Anglers fishing for northern report catching a few fish in the 20- to 26-inch range closer to shore. Ben Ewoldt, fisheries technician, Peshtigo
Door County - Over the weekend anglers fishing from Cabots Point, Oak Ave, and Potawatomi Park had little luck, only coming in with 2-5 whitefish for half and full days spent on the ice. Fishing pressure at Oak Ave was still high compared to the other launches, but many anglers were out over the weekend pulling their shacks off as the ice is beginning to thin and open water is becoming visible. - Kara Winter, fisheries technician, Green Bay
Peshtigo DNR Service Center area
Marinette County - An additional 4 to 6 inches of snow fell on the area March 6. Most of the area snowmobile trails are being groomed and are open. Please refer to local clubs or marinettecosnowtrails.com for the most updated trail report. Please use extra caution right now when traveling on frozen lakes or rivers. On several area lakes, the ice has begun to deteriorate fairly quickly. The warden service and local law enforcement have been receiving several reports of vehicles going through the ice. As a reminder, ice shanties on inland waters north of Highway 64 (majority of Marinette County) shall be removed no later than the first Sunday following March 12. The predicted 10-day forecast shows the majority of days with temperatures above freezing. Now would be a good time to consider ice shanty removal. - Tim Werner, conservation warden
Oconto County - We have received about 7 inches of snow in the Peshtigo Area. Snowmobile trails and cross-country ski trails are still open in northern Oconto County. Please check with the Oconto County Tourism web page under trail reports for updated reports as this week's weather can change the trail conditions. Before the snow storm maple sap had been flowing. Back home in Fremont my parents had boiled about 20 gallons of sap already too little less than a gallon of syrup, but this cold weather is halting flow. I'm assuming sap flow will increase starting tomorrow and into the weekend. I don't expect sap flow to last too much longer in the middle to southern part of the state, but up north the forecast looks good beyond two weeks having above freezing days and freezing nights. - Paul Hartrick, conservation warden, Oconto Falls
Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area
Newport State Park - Thanks to Winter Storm Claire, we have about 6 inches of fresh, heavy snow. Newport cross-country ski trails was groomed and tracked for classic skiing March 6. Multi-use trails have been groomed but not tracked. Some multi-use trails have been groomed. Temperatures are supposed to remain in the low 30s this week. Wildlife tracks show coyotes have been active. Turkeys are abundant and there was a sighting of a pair of sandhill cranes in the fields near the entrance to the park. A pair of bald eagles is sighted regularly along the shore line where there is open water. And a pair of pileated woodpeckers are going to town on some of the snags near the office. They visit the suet feeders in the bird viewing area daily. As is typical of cold, clear winter nights, the skies have been glorious. Winter star gazing has its challenges, but it is well worth checking out the night sky at our International Dark Sky park. We've even had some hardy winter campers adventuring out for some backpack camping. - Beth Bartoli, naturalist
Peninsula State Park - The Door Peninsula received 6 to 8 inches of snow earlier this week. Cross-country ski trails range from excellent to poor depending on the trail. Check trail conditions for details. - Jessica Doell, visitor services associate
Potawatomi State Park - The park received about 8 inches of wet heavy snow on March 6. Cross-country ski trails are groomed and in good condition for skate and classic skiing, but a heavy layer of ice remains under the snow. - Erin Brown Stender, property supervisor
Whitefish Dunes State Park - The park received about 8 inches of heavy, wet snow March 6. Cross-country ski trails were groomed and tracked March 7 and are in fair condition. Lake Michigan ice formations are very beautiful, but extremely unstable, please stay off these structures for your safety. Remember, park staff do not monitor ice conditions. Hikers and snowshoers may hike the Black Trail or along the beach. The beach shoreline is clear of snow and ice and a great walking option this time of year. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate
Wautoma DNR Service Center area
About 7 inches of snow fell last night in the Waupaca area. It is a good time to get your snowshoes out and see some of your state lands. Game fishing is closed in most areas, but anglers have still been getting out and enjoying some late season panfishing on area lakes. Good catches of bluegills have been seen on White Lake near Weyauwega. Please check your regulations as there is a bag limit of 10 bluegill on this lake. Some trappers have had success trapping otter. With the ice receding, trappers have been able to place traps on open water to make a set. Lots of eagles moving through central Wisconsin. Keep an eye out for them near open water. - Ted Dremel, conservation warden, Wautoma
Waupaca County - Central Wisconsin received 6.5 inches of snow this week, but has already lost an inch or two to melting. Trails have not been groomed or opened and likely will not be for the rest of the season. Wood ducks, sandhill cranes and northern harriers have all been sighted in the last week, although given Tuesday's storm they might be regretting their early arrival. Some folks have started tapping their maple trees in the last week. Although we still have ice, I have seen almost no ice fishing pressure. Have a good weekend. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma
Waushara County - The county saw a healthy dose of snow this weekend, but not enough of a base to open any trails at the moment. The ice on Waushara County lakes is there, but deteriorating by the day. The wet heavy snow is not going to help with the quality. There are still plenty of folks out and the bite has been decent on and off over the last week. The signs of spring are definitely upon us though. Sandhill cranes, swans, and geese have been seen in large numbers on their migration back north. Norther harrier hawks have been seen in the county again and robins are back in low numbers as well. Some folks have reportedly started tapping trees for maple syrup, but nothing to speak of has been running yet. The forecast looks to be improving slightly for the weekend so get out and enjoy the snow while it remains. - Ben Mott, conservation warden, Wautoma
Hartman Creek State Park - Pope Lake cross-country ski trails are groomed and tracked and in generally poor condition. Oak Ridge is partially groomed but not tracked. Trails are ice covered underneath the snow. - Randy Busch, ranger
Milwaukee DNR Service Center area
Lakeshore State Park - The lagoon is about 75 percent ice-free and we have had our first boat come in for fishing a couple weeks ago. The northern basin is completely ice-free, with just a small amount hanging on at the end of the south basin. High winds this week produced some great waves that occasionally crashed over the railings at the south entrance. These have died down, so no worries about getting wet while walking by. Red breasted mergansers have started to return to the park, and a frequent park visitor, a female Leucistic (low pigment) mallard has come back. A couple American black ducks were also seen earlier this week hanging out by the docks. - Angela Vickio, naturalist, Milwaukee
Kettle Moraine State Forest, Lapham Peak Unit - Cross-country ski trails are in poor condition and not recommended for skiing at this time. The flat portion of the man-made snow loop was groomed Wednesday afternoon and is skiable, but in mostly poor condition. The hills and bottom of the hills are still icy. For this reason the lights will remain off. The mountain bike/horse trails remain closed due to muddy conditions when the temps get above freezing. Jay Abts, ranger
Kettle Moraine State Forest, Northern Unit - Greenbush received about 6 inches and Zillmer about 4 inches of wet, heavy snow on March 5-6. Cross-country ski trails were not groomed, but snow is present for skiing. - Deb Harder, visitor services associate
South Central Region
Dodgeville DNR Service Center area
Blue Mound State Park - All cross-country ski trails were rolled and packed March 7 and are in good to fair condition. Base depth is 2-3 inches, so no track was set. - Kevin Swenson, park manager
Horicon DNR Service Center area
Columbia County - A lot of the migratory waterfowl have returned to southern Wisconsin including the sandhill cranes. The recent 4-inch snowfall will not be enough to reopen snowmobile trails but will provide better footing for people still venturing out ice fishing for panfish. Turkeys are still in winter flocks but are starting to move more as evidence of more and more car/turkey accidents this past week in Columbia County. - Paul Nadolski, conservation warden, Portage
Mirror Lake State Park -The park received about 4 inches of wet heavy snow March 5. A couple of the cross-country ski trails are in fair condition but most are poor. Check Trail Conditions for details. - Becky Green, park manager
West Central Region
Baldwin DNR Service Center area
Kinnickinnic State Park - All trails are open to hikers and pets. Cross-country ski trails trails have been tracked; however trails are only in fair condition and will remain open to all users. Multi-use trails are packed. - Eric Klumb, ranger
La Crosse DNR Service Center area
Vernon County - A few male wild turkeys have been seen strutting and displaying and heard gobbling. While these behaviors are signs of the impending breeding season, there is still a ways to go before breeding actually begins. Fox and gray squirrels are taking advantage of warming weather and lengthening days by feeding furiously on nuts and seeds that have remained buried all winter under the snow. Raccoon, skunk, muskrat, mink, and opossum activity has increased as day and night temperatures have increased. River otter sign along creeks and streams may be more evident this time of year as male otters increase their movements during the March - April breeding season. Keep an eye open for these curious, energetic, entertaining animals. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua
Perrot State Park - The Wilber and Bay cross-country ski trails have been groomed and tracked and are in fair condition. - Lois Larson, park manager
Black River Falls DNR Service Center area
Black River State Forest - Cross-country ski trails were groomed for skate and tracked for classic skiing on March 8 where possible, but the snow is leaving fast. Best conditions are on the North Trail. Gordon Hoyt, ranger
Eau Claire DNR Service Center area
Hoffman Hills State Recreation Area - Cross-country ski trails were groomed and tracked on March 7. Groomers are planning to work on trails again March 9. Trail conditions are sporadic from excellent to poor based on the layout of the particular trail but in general trails are in good condition. - Calvin Kunkel, ranger
Red Cedar State Trail - Cross-country ski trails are in good condition. Groomers packed the trail on March 6 and expected to groom and track the trail March 7 and 8. Trail should be in good to excellent condition as there is still a heavy base of snow on the trail. - Calvin Kunkel, ranger
Brunet Island State Park - Cross-country ski trails were groomed March 6. Track set up fairly good after the last snowfall and should last for a few days until the temps warm up again. - Zachary Thon, ranger
Lake Wissota State Park - The warm temperatures have reduced the amount of snow depth on the cross-country ski trails. There are some bear spots around the prairie but most of the trails are in skiable condition. - Nathan Fries, ranger
Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area
Buckhorn State Park - There was open water at the Buckhorn bridge with the warmer weather. We do not monitor ice conditions. The new campground is open but the dump station, flush toilet/shower buildings are closed for the season. - Heather Wolf, park manager